UCL Human Resources


Industrial Action

Information on industrial action and dispute resolution.

UCL recognises the following three trade unions:  UCU, UNISON and UNITE.  From time to time members of each trade union may undertake industrial action.


What is industrial action

Industrial action is when employees and workers go on strike and/or take other action, like refusing to do certain duties such as marking and assessment, or refusing to work overtime (known as ‘action short of a strike’).

Industrial action happens when trade union members are in a dispute with their employers that can’t be solved through negotiations.  A trade union can only call for industrial action if a majority of its members involved support it in a properly organised postal vote - called a ‘ballot’. It must tell all members entitled to vote and the employer what the ballot results were.

A trade union calls industrial action by telling members and the employer when and how this action will be taken. 

Recording industrial action

When staff at UCL take strike action or any other form of industrial action, such as a marking and assessment boycott, they need to record each day of the industrial action on our Industrial Action portal below.  Sometimes they need to record Action Short of Strike (ASoS) too, and will be informed when this is needed.  

Industrial Action portal


Can my Head of Department see what dates I have taken industrial action via the online portal?

Yes. Heads of Department and Departmental Administrators can also update and correct information recorded on this portal if it is incomplete or inaccurate. Heads and DAs should log into the online portal to submit industrial action dates for staff in their departments.

Line managers should inform their HoD / Director of all staff taking action unless the HoD / Director has delegated recording this information to another staff member. HoD / Directors can contact hr_systems@ucl.ac.uk to request Department Administrator access for industrial action recording, where they have delegated that responsibility.

If I have a Skilled Worker Visa, can I still take industrial action?

If you are sponsored to work for UCL and you take lawful industrial action, this is permitted. 

Where the industrial action takes the form of lawful strike action, this is treated as authorised unpaid leave. Unpaid leave arising from strike action or the witholding of salary due to action short of strke, are allowable reasons for salary to drop below the minimum threshold to qualify for a Certificate of Sponsorship.

You should record all industrial action via our online reporting tool, so the reasons for any pay reduction will be recorded and available as evidence if required.

What happens if I am sick during industrial action?

Sickness absence must be reported to your line manager at the start of the working day, in line with the Sickness Absence Policy and recorded in the normal way via MyHR. Sickness absence must not be used as a reason not to attend work due to industrial action. 

Can I take annual leave during industrial action?

Annual leave booked prior to the announcement of the planned industrial action, may be taken as agreed.  Annual leave requests for strike days or key events during industrial action (which have not already been authorised) will be given careful consideration and only agreed if there are appropriate staffing levels to ensure operational effectiveness can be maintained.

What happens if I need to request special leave for domestic or personal reasons?

Requests for ‘special leave’ will be considered on their merits and in line with UCL’s Special Leave Policy


Guidance for student facing roles

UCL’s guidance for Faculty Tutors and Heads of Department on mitigating the impact of industrial action on assessment, progression and award is available in the Academic Manual 2022-23.

Can departmental activities and the work of those not taking part in industrial action be reorganised to mitigate the impact on students?

Departments are encouraged to make contingency plans and it is appropriate to reorganise and reprioritise the work of the department to ensure that essential student-related activity can be undertaken. This may mean that on some days permanent staff are asked to change their duties, which is a reasonable and legitimate management request.   

Can departments play a lecturer’s recordings to students in the absence of the lecturer?

Departments should not play recordings of lectures to students in the absence of the lecturer as a result of industrial action. As industrial action may impact on a range of learning activities, HoDs should work with relevant teachers and teaching teams to identify resources that may be used to support students to make up for missed learning in timetabled sessions affected by industrial action.

What should I do if a student asks about a refund on their course because they are affected by industrial action?

UCL is working with departments to ensure adequate support is made available where teaching or marking and assessment is affected by industrial action and that disruption to students is minimised. If a student believes that the mitigations provided have not been sufficient to meet their learning outcomes, they can let us know by making use of UCL’s Student Complaints Procedure.

If students holding a visa are affected by industrial action, what should they do to avoid breaching their visa requirements?

Students with a visa who are affected by cancelled teaching or assessment events should be advised to report to the Teaching Administrator in their department so that they can demonstrate that they are continuing to engage with their programme of study. A record of this contact should be kept by the Departmental Teaching Administrator as evidence.

How should departments pay a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant (PGTA) who takes industrial action?

If the PGTA is employed on an Averaged Hours contract, ensure industrial action is logged using the online reporting tool. Pay will be withheld in the advised payroll run following the action. Where pay will be withheld at the rate of 100%, this will be based on 1/365th of the annual salary per day. Other percentages may be determined by UCL.  The amount withheld for part-time staff will be based on their contracted hours/pay on days of industrial action.

If they have a Guaranteed Minimum Hours contract and are paid via payment forms, the department should submit payment for the days of industrial action in the normal way, as if they had worked, and ensure the industrial action is recorded using the online reporting tool. Pay will be withheld as detailed above. The payment for scheduled hours on days of industrial action should be submitted to payroll because UCL requires a complete record of industrial action taken and we must treat their pay in the same way as other employees who take industrial action.

If a PGTA’s work is cancelled because of industrial action, and they are not taking part themselves, their pay will not be withheld if they are available and willing for work. 

Marking and assessment boycott

What type of work is covered by the marking and assessment boycott?

UCU has advised that the type of work covered by the marking and assessment boycott consists of the following:

  • all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions, continuous assessment).

  • all summative marking and assessment, whether expressed numerically, in writing, online, or verbally, of all assessed work e.g. coursework and examination marking, assessment of fieldwork, exhibits, practical work, scientific experiments, presentations, posters etc.

  • exam invigilation; processing of marks; distribution of scripts or papers to be marked; organisation of and/or preparation for exam/assessment boards/vivas/preparation meetings/degree shows/practical performance/supervised practicals.

  • any form of in-course continuous assessment which contributes to decisions about the suitability of students to continue/progress with their studies or to undertake particular options/modules.

  • providing any feedback from which any mark for summative assessments could be reasonably deduced. 

Further information can be found on UCU’s MAB website

When do I need to report my participation in the marking and assessment boycott on the online industrial action reporting portal by?

Guidance for Central Assessment period  

We now ask that declarations are submitted by Friday 9 June.

The period of central assessments at UCL begins on 24 April 2023 and runs until the release of marks on 6 July. This covers the assessment period for all UG and PGT Exam Boards that use the marks submission deadline of 9 June. We consider that participation in the boycott covers the entire period from 24 April until 6 July.

Please note that, although the UCU boycott commenced on 20 April, we will calculate any pay withheld from the start date of our central assessment period on 24 April. The withholding of pay will not be implemented before 9 June which is the deadline for the submission of marks at UCL, although Departments/Units will have set submission deadlines earlier than 9 June. Colleagues should submit marks according to their internal department/unit timelines. Until 9 June, if staff decide to withdraw their participation and have completed all assessment related activities and any marks have been submitted, then no pay will be withheld. Staff can withdraw their self-declaration by emailing their Head of Department and demonstrating they have completed their marking and assessment activities.

Guidance for Late Summer Assessment period  

The Late Summer Assessment period began on 21 August. As the MAB is continuous under the current mandate until the end of September, this will mean once again that anyone participating in the boycott may prevent affected students from receiving their full marks. We will withhold 50% of pay for TWO weeks for anyone who does not submit their LSA marks by the due date of 15 September because of their participation in the MAB. This is in addition to any pay that will be withheld as a result of participation in the MAB during the central assessment period of 24 April – 6 July.  As before, if you feel that this is unjust in your individual case, then you may request that your case is reviewed. 

Staff who participate in the MAB in the LSA period should declare participation using the online strike reporting portal from 21 August 2023. 

As set out previously, staff participating in the boycott will start to see pay withheld from their November 2023 salary, on a phased basis across a three-month period (November–January). This will be done at 0.5/365 of annual salary of the rate earned during the boycott period (including London Allowance if received) per day. 

Postgraduate Taught dissertations will begin to be submitted during September when the current mandate for industrial action is still in place. However, the main dissertation marking and second-marking period runs from 2 October to 23 October during which time we will expect staff to prioritise their marking.

I do not intend to participate in the marking and assessment boycott. Will my pay be affected?

If you are not participating in the marking and assessment boycott, your pay will not be affected, and you are not required to make a declaration.

What evidence is required that I have not taken part in the marking and assessment boycott?

If you are not participating in the marking and assessment boycott, you do not need to provide specific evidence of this. You should simply continue to undertake all your duties as usual and follow all requirements for marking and assessment as guided by your department.

On what basis has UCL arrived at the figure of 50% as a fair withdrawal of pay for the marking and assessment boycott?

UCU has made clear that the boycott covers all marking and associated assessment activities and duties. This includes not providing informal guidance/feedback to students concerning their likely mark/grade or assessed progress, and other assessment-related work such as exam invigilation, the processing of marks and preparation for and running of exam boards. These activities make up a significant proportion of the workload of most staff in student-facing roles (whether academic or PS), particularly at this time of year.

Boycotting these activities and duties represents a continuous partial performance of contractual duties related to this assessment period and, as such, we will withhold 50% of pay. UCU’s boycott FAQs state: “Partial performance' is deemed, in law, to be continuous until the dispute ends - even if on days when members have no marking to do. This means you can have pay deducted every day for the duration of the marking and assessment boycott”.

Please note, that UCL has committed to ensure that any withholding of pay will not take anyone below the London Living Wage of £11.95 per hour gross.

Why does the withdrawal of 50% pay last for the whole period from 24 April – 6 July?

Marking and assessment is not limited to a singular moment in time but are continuous duties throughout the central assessment period (24 April – 6 July). This is why we consider that participation in the boycott is continuous between these dates. Partial performance is deemed, in law, to be continuous until the dispute ends – even on those days when individuals might not have any marking or assessment to do. As a result, individuals participating in the boycott can have pay withdrawn for the whole period.

As the UCU marking and assessment boycott is part of continuous ASoS, and as UCU has not fixed an end date, we reserve the right to extend the period that pay is withheld beyond 6 July. This decision may be prompted by individuals not participating in additional marking and assessment responsibilities after that date, for instance not taking part in future postgraduate research student vivas.

How will the amount of pay that is due to be withheld be calculated if I work part-time or irregular hours?

Payroll will look at your pay during the boycott period and will withhold an amount equivalent to 50% of this in your pay in the months that follow 9 June until the entire amount is recovered.

Please note, that UCL has committed to ensure that any withholding of pay will not take anyone below the London Living Wage of £11.95 per hour gross.

What if I leave UCL before the entire amount to be withheld is recovered?

You will be contacted to make arrangements for recovery of the overpayment.

Will bank holidays or annual leave during the period of the marking and assessment boycott be exempt when calculating the amount to be withheld?

Yes they will.

What is the impact of withholding pay on my pension?

If you are a member of the USS or SAUL Pension Scheme, and provided you maintain your usual individual employee pension contributions, UCL has decided it will continue to maintain employer pension contributions for this period of industrial action, although it reserves the right not to do so in the future. Please inform the UCL Pensions team only if you do not wish for your employee and employer contributions to be maintained.

If you are part of another pension scheme (e.g. NHS) it might not be possible to maintain pension contributions during a period of industrial action.

If you have questions about the impact of industrial action on your pension, please contact your Trade Union or UCL Pensions on pensions@ucl.ac.uk.

If I am asked to undertake additional marking and assessment to cover a colleague taking part in the boycott, am I obliged to do it?

If you are not participating in the boycott, UCL would be grateful if you would assist in undertaking any additional marking and assessment that is allocated to you to cover a colleague who is taking part in the boycott. If you refuse to do so there will be no impact on your pay or otherwise, but UCL reserves the right to keep this under review.

What is the Education Committee and who sits on it? 

Education Committee was established in 2010 as part of the substructure of the Academic Committee. In 2020, Academic Board delegated powers to Education Committee, in connection with which it considers and advises the Council on all academic matters and questions affecting the educational policy of UCL, the organisation of teaching, examining, and courses of instruction. 

Membership includes representation from across UCL, including Students' Union Sabbatical Officers, Faculty Tutors, nominated members, and twelve members elected by and from Academic Board. Full membership can be found here.

Education Committee approved the ‘Marking and Assessment Boycott: Regulatory & Process Guidance for Boards of Examiners 2022-23.’

What is the Examinations and Assessments Contingency Panel and who sits on it? 

The Examinations and Contingency Panel (EACP) is enacted in emergency situations by Education Committee. The Examinations and Assessments Contingency Panel (EACP) was re-established in February 2023 by Education Committee to provide guidance for Examination Boards to ensure we are acting consistently across UCL. The panel provides general guidance on managing the impact of industrial action and including ‘Action short of a strike’ (ASoS), on assessment and progression. It also offers specific advice where needed.  

The Panel is made up of colleagues from across UCL, including Faculty Tutors, Chair of Exam Boards and Central Assessments colleagues. 

The full membership of the panel is listed here

What are the EACP’s Terms of Reference?

The EACP’s Terms of Reference, as approved by Education Committee, are:

In case of an emergency situation having a significant impact on the assessment of UCL’s academic provision, the Examinations and Assessment Contingency Panel (EACP) will be convened in order to:

  1. Review proposed mitigation plans, ensuring:
      a) Students are not unfairly disadvantaged in assessment;
      b) Academic standards are maintained; and 
      c) Academic integrity is maintained
      d) Sector guidance and best-practice is taken into account
  2. Provide advice to Faculties and Departments via email and/or websites
  3. Take action on behalf of Education Committee to implement mitigation.

EACP has regulatory powers delegated to it from Education Committee enabling the university to make necessary changes to regulations, in particular to Annex 6.6.2 on Managing the Impact of Industrial Action on Assessment, Progression, and Award, in a time-sensitive manner as well as deal with individual guidance requests and approve suspensions of regulations.

Where can I find emergency mitigations for Board of Examiners? 

Guidance can be found in the Academic Manual, with specific reference in Annex 6.6.2 

Are these mitigations new?  

The Academic Manual has contained emergency procedures for Boards of Examiners since at least 2013/14, previously spread across multiple policies and are still available online. In 2019/20, pre-existing policies were brought together to better support Boards of Examiners. This subsequently led to the creation of a revised annex (6.6.2) on Managing the Impact of Industrial Action on Assessment, Progression and Award in 2020/21. 

This annex formed the basis of guidance developed by the Examinations and Assessments Contingency Panel (EACP) [UCL login required] on emergency procedures and mitigations that can be used throughout the current marking and assessment boycott.  

If there is existing regulation, why did we need new guidance?  

The Examinations and Assessment Contingency Panel decided that new guidance was required as existing information focused on the disruption to teaching and the student's ability to undertake assessment, which is different in the marking and assessment boycott.  

Who will apply these mitigations?  

Departmental Boards of Examiners are in the best position to determine whether learning outcomes and any requirements from professional bodies have been met and will exercise their academic judgement. Mitigations are available to Boards of Examiners to enable them to graduate students where they are confident those students have met their Programme Learning Outcomes. This ensures that academic standards are maintained. 

These mitigations have been communicated directly to Faculty Education Teams and Boards of Examiners.  

What are other universities doing? 

These mitigations are similar to those being used across the sector. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure students who are affected can graduate or progress on time and that their degree is an accurate reflection of their academic achievement.  

Therefore, it is essential that we make these mitigations available to Boards of Examiners to ensure that we are consistent with the sector and not disadvantaging our students

How are these different to previous emergency mitigations, such as those implemented during COVID?  

It is important to note that these mitigations differ from the additional emergency mitigations that were made available through Covid. Those mitigations were algorithmic and mandated, in response to the extraordinary nature of the global pandemic, which affected both learning and ability to undertake assessment.  

The mitigations for MAB are not algorithmic, nor mandated, and are only applicable in circumstances the local Board of Examiners judges academically appropriate. 

Who can I contact if I have a question about the practical implementation of these mitigations?  

In the first instance, colleagues should contact their Faculty Education Teams. Faculty Education Teams are welcome to contact their dedicated Student Records contact, or email examboards@ucl.ac.uk if they have any questions. 

Support for students

What measures are being taken to minimise the impact on students?

We know that our staff care deeply about students and do not take industrial action lightly; however, a marking and assessment boycott is potentially very damaging to our students, especially those who are most vulnerable. 

We are committed to minimising the impact of this boycott on our students and we will do everything we can to support their educational outcomes and wellbeing. In previous disputes, we have always ensured that students are able to complete their studies and graduate. We will continue to do what we can to ensure that this is the case and have a number of mitigation measures available to us. Our Examinations and Assessments Contingency Panel (EACP) is reviewing UCL procedures for managing the impact of industrial action in light of the MAB. Further guidance will be shared by the EACP directly with Faculty Education Teams in the coming weeks.

What are you telling students about the marking and assessment boycott?

We are advising all students that they should continue to prepare for upcoming examinations and assessments, and reassuring them that they will not be assessed on any academic content which has not been properly covered due to industrial action. 

We expect that the impact of any boycott will vary according to course, subject and department. Students should check their emails and Moodle regularly for updates and contact their department if they have any queries. 

Information for students about the marking and assessment boycott can be found on Student News and our Industrial Action FAQs for students

What can I do to help if any of my students are having problems with their wellbeing? 

If any of your students are struggling with their wellbeing, please do refer them to our Student Support and Wellbeing pages, where they can access support. If you have serious concerns about a specific student, please let Student Support and Wellbeing know via our Student of Concern form. 

Are Final and Upgrade vivas for PGR students included in the marking and assessment boycott? 

UCU has confirmed in their Marking and Assessment Boycott FAQs that Final and Upgrade vivas for PGR students are included in the boycott. 

We recommend that you liaise with your HoD to identify students whose vivas might be at risk to help find solutions. Guidance has been sent from the UCL Doctoral School to staff working with PGR students, with proposed mitigation strategies for thesis drafts, thesis committees, upgrade vivas and final viva examinations. If you need further advice, please contact the Doctoral School